It's All About Redemption Part II
G-d Like and Self Serving
This class is dedicated by Ephraim Sobol in loving memory of his
Shlomo Mordechai ben Yaakov a"h.
In last week's issue we explained that humankind was created to seek
redemption. In other words, the purpose of creation is Geulah
(redemption). We further explained that the meaning of redemption was the
absolute acceptance of Hashem's (G-d's) word (law, commandments, etc.)
From the moment that Adam and Chava sinned and the evil inclination was
released they needed to seek redemption. That redemption was a return to
the pristine purity of their inception. That pristine purity was the
absolute acceptance of G-d’s word as to the meaning and purpose of their
creation and existence. Redemption is therefore the absolute acceptance of
Hashem’s word. Redemption is the acceptance that the only true value is
G-d’s intention for creating the universe, in whole and in part.
This week I would like to continue the discussion of redemption as the
focus of creation and Hashem's first and last intent.
How do we know what G-d's intent is? How do we know what Hashem really
wants? The sixth of the Rambam's Ani Mamain (Maimonidies's Thirteen
Principls of Faith) states, "I believe with perfect faith that the words
of the prophets are true.” Prophecy was and is the medium of G-d’s
communication with humanity. In fact, the Torah is called “Moshe’s
Prophecy.” Whether in the most direct manner of G-d actually speaking to
the prophet, such as in the case of Moshe, or the more common visions and
dreams that most prophets experienced, the manner of G-d communication is
prophecy. There have always been prophets. In every generation starting
with Adam and Chava there have been individuals who merited the direct
communication of G-d.
The story of Adam, Chava, the Nachash (serpent) and Gan Eden (Garden of
Eden) is the first extensive communication between G-d and a prophet
recorded in the Torah. A deeper analysis of that “scene” is essential for
understanding the relationship between creation and redemption.
G-d placed Adam and Chava in the Garden to experience His reality in all
its intricate and majestic manifestations. The hope was that the humans He
would fashion in His own image would be free of all worries for their
basic needs and able to spend all their time exploring the glory that is
this universe. Through personal observation and prophetic direction they
would be able to ascertain the truth of His existence and the purpose He
had for creating the universe.
The plan assumed two human efforts: a) natural curiosity and therefore the
desire to explore and observe; b) the desire to know the truth of Who and
why. Either of the two by itself could not have worked. Curiosity without
a drive toward truth, purpose, and understanding is the prescription for
an amoral world of perversion and self-worship. The desire to know the
truth without the curiosity and ambition to know how truth manifests
itself is a potential that will never be realized. In the end the person
will have squandered his precious time and strength on waiting for the
proverbial bird to “come-a-whispering.” Curiosity and exploration is the
minimal “Hishtadlus” (effort) that Hashem expects from us.
(As an aside… When Moshe turned to explore and further observe
the “Burning Bush” he passed the first test of his selection for Redeemer.
I believe it is the Kutzkah Rebba who said that the Burning Bush was
visible to many other shepherds grazing their flocks in the area; however,
only Moshe took the time to investigate the obvious. As we have all
experienced, the best teachers are the ones who themselves are still
curious and are still seeking knowledge and understanding.)
However, in addition to having created Adam and Chava with a natural
curiosity and the drive to seek out understanding and truth, he also
forbade them from eating from the two trees in the center of the garden.
Of course, that guaranteed that the two trees would be the focus of their
curiosity and desire; however, the world was new and they were the first
to walk its heretofore-untouched beauty. There was more than enough to
occupy Adam and Chava’s desire to explore and experience before turning
their attention to the "two trees in the center of the garden." More over,
it appears from the narrative of the story that Hashem had never told them
the true nature of the two trees. It was only after the Nachash revealed
the true nature of the one tree that their desire awoke to experience that
which was forbidden.
In last week’s analysis we pointed out that being unclothed was not a
contradiction to basic modesty. If value is determined by its association
with purpose in the service of G-d then the human body should have no
other value than its purpose in fulfilling G-d’s Mitzvos. Attributing
values of personal pleasure and gratification to the physical being of a
person is selfish to the human creature and summarily ignores the presence
of G-d in creating and ordering the physical universe.
Prior to sinning, Adam and Chava had no other system for evaluating value
except the law of G-d. So long as they did not eat from the tree they
served all of G-d’s purpose in being created. Nothing else was forbidden
or restricted. They were free to spend their lives exploring every aspect
and facet of G-d’s wondrous nature. As such, there was no reason to cover
one’s body because of modesty. Modesty became necessary when there was the
need to distinguish between G-d’s intentions and their own desires.
Modesty aids us in being clear about what our intentions should be. That
is why in certain professional settings (e.g. medical examination or
procedures) the norms of modesty are changed. The professional setting
imposes the necessary clarity on why the human body is being uncovered. It
should not be for the sake of personal gratification; rather, it is for
the sake of health and helping. It further explains why there are Halachik
prohibitions against wearing clothes in certain limited circumstances.
To cover one’s self when G-d’s intentions are best served by being
unclothed is itself a denial of G-d’s intent and therefore wrong.
After the Nachash enticed Adam and Chava to eat from the forbidden fruit
the Torah states that (3:7) “…their eyes were opened and they knew they
were naked…” Rashi references the Medresh that answers the obvious
question. It took eating from the forbidden fruit to know that they were
naked? Even a blind man knows when he is naked! The Medresh answers, “They
had only one Mitzvah and now they had none. Adam and Chava knew at that
moment that they were naked of Mitzvos!”
Imagine a world without Mitzvos (commandments). How would you serve G-d?
What would you do? What would you not do? What would you teach your
children and students? Mitzvos are how we serve Hashem. Whether heard
directly from G-d or taught by one of His prophets, the Mitzvos are a
revelation of G-d’s wishes for how we are supposed to serve Him.
Adam heard G-d’s wishes directly. He was told not to eat from the two
trees in the middle of the garden. Adam then told the commandment to
Chava. She believed Adam and knew that not eating from the tree was G-d’s
wish. Besides the natural curiosity and exploration and the desire to
ascertain the truth of G-d’s existence, the only way Adam and Chava could
willfully serve G- was to not eat from the tree of good and evil. The
moment Chava and Adam ate from the tree they could no longer fulfill their
one Mitzvah. Forever after they would never again be in a position of not
having eaten from the forbidden fruit. As Rashi references, “Their eyes
were opened and they knew that they were naked of Mitzvos.”
More so, their eyes were opened to the possibility of not listening to
Hashem. No longer were they pristine and pure in their service to G-d.
Until that moment everything they did, everything they desired to do, so
long as they did not eat from the forbidden fruit was perfectly allowed.
In fact, they were fulfilling G-d’s intention for them by exploring their
natural curiosity. The simple act of living and experiencing was the
fulfillment of G-d’s commandments. Not so anymore. With tasting the
forbidden fruit, Adam and awoke their evil inclination; meaning, their
desire to do what they felt like doing even if it was in conflict with
what G-d wanted. From then on they would have to ascertain whether their
purpose in fulfilling their natural curiosity was for the sake of
revealing and sanctifying G-d’s name or for the sake of fulfilling their
How foolish they must have felt! Not only didn’t the forbidden fruit make
them smarter, G-d like, and more capable of serving G-d; instead, it
negated their only means for willfully serving G-d.
What were they to do? What does one do when they have no Mitzvos? What
does one do when even Teshuvah (repentance) will not help? The sin stood.
They had eaten. They could no longer, “not eat. Regret and apologies could
not turn back the clock!
The answer is, they needed more Mitzvos. Through prophecy G-d would have
to reveal to them further instructions to frame their existence in
purposeful intent. No longer would humanity be able to serve G-d by just
being. From here on in humanity would have to apply discernment and wisdom
(see the 4th blessing in the daily Amidah - silent benedictions) to every
action so as to know whether their performance was serving G-d or serving
It was in this context that humanity failed and had to be destroyed. The
ten generations from Adam to Noach had a choice. Do they frame their lives
within the values of the Seven Noahide Laws (which were actually revealed
to Adam and his sons way before Noach was born) and give focus and purpose
to existence by imposing G-d's intent on their lives; or, do they forge
their own destinies ignoring G-d's commandments and following the dictates
of their hearts and minds?
They chose the later and consigned the entire world, except the eight
refugees on Noah's Ark, to irreparable harm.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.